On a recent Wednesday afternoon, several English speakers circled around a pair of large wooden tables trying to learn Hebrew. They were in Ahuva Tal-Hollander’s program at West Side Institutional Synagogue, one of the largest Hebrew language programs in the city.
Some were secular Jews who were dating someone religious or Israeli; others had become religious and wanted to better understand the Torah; and still others were American medical students preparing for classes in Israel this fall.
Rabbi Rafael Grossman, for nearly three decades the spiritual leader of the largest Orthodox congregation in the United States, left his Southern synagogue recently for a small, struggling synagogue here because of one five-year-old boy.
Rabbi Grossman, visiting his son's home in Teaneck, N.J., last year, heard his grandson say, "I think I know who you are."
The rabbi was stunned. Bi-monthly visits to his children in the areas of Boston and New York would no longer be enough. The grandchildren had to know bubbe and zaide.